Golf

Andrew Loupe chasing first PGA Tour win, remains atop leader board at Quail Hollow

Andrew Loupe sits atop the leader board at 8-under par after two rounds of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. He has a one-stroke lead over Roberto Castro.
Andrew Loupe sits atop the leader board at 8-under par after two rounds of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. He has a one-stroke lead over Roberto Castro. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Andrew Loupe has never won a PGA Tour event but believes he can draw on past events.

He’s had at least a share of the lead after the first round once before, and that came in January’s Farmers Insurance Open. He won the 2015 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, but that was on the Web.com Tour.

He said he both of those experiences should help him at Quail Hollow Club. But this is the weekend at Wells Fargo Championship and there are big names chasing him.

Loupe is alone in first place at 8-under par after two rounds at the tournament. He holds a one-stroke lead over Roberto Castro, with whom Loupe will be partnered Saturday.

“It’s halftime,” Loupe said after Friday’s 1-under-par round. “I know that there’s a lot of good golfers right behind me. Just do my best to stay in this very moment.”

Creeping up behind Loupe are titans in today’s game. Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose are all within four shots of Loupe.

Mickelson believes he’s in the thick of it at 5 under as he chases his first win in Charlotte.

“It’s a little too early for that, to start thinking about that,” Mickelson said. “…But my touch around the greens, my short game, is as good as it’s been in a long time, and I think it will save me if I happen to not strike it well. If I do strike it well, I think there’s a really low round in there.”

Rory McIlroy had a flurry of birdies in the middle of his round. He went 5-under par between holes No. 5 and 9 before going bogey-bogey to finish his round.

Five who mattered

Rickie Fowler: After a good opening round, the fifth-ranked player in the world went 4 under on Friday to finish in a tie for fifth place. His bogey on the par-3 13th was his lone blemish.

Chesson Hadley: Despite shooting only 1 under on the par-5s and making a double bogey, Hadley still got to 5-under par and sits tied for third.

Justin Rose: He had an up-and-down round with mostly ups with five birdies, a bogey and a double bogey.

Roberto Castro: He eagled 18 by holing out from 221 yards. Castro, who’s in second at 7 under, used his 5-wood and called it the “best shot I’ve ever hit, no questions asked.”

Harold Varner III: The Tour rookie from Gastonia sank a 38-foot par save on No. 9 and followed that with a birdie at 10. At 3 under, Varner is tied for 13th.

Observations

▪  Charlotte resident Webb Simpson needed to make a move to avoid missing the cut after a 3-over round Thursday. He followed it with a 74 and missed the cut at 5 over. “I just played bad,” he said. “Tee to green. Nothing really worked.”

▪  There are plenty of Rickie Fowler clones walking around Quail Hollow Club this week, but will they take on his new look? Fowler is known for his bright colors and flat-bill Puma hat. But this year he’s started wearing jogger pants and high-top golf cleats. Puma will begin selling the items next month.

▪  Will Wilcox had fun with the gallery despite a bad day on the course. He shot 4 over and finished 7 over for the tournament, but he thanked the crowd after finishing each hole whether they clapped or not. By the back nine, fans started to get it and clapped after he brought some levity to the situation.

Worth mentioning

▪  Jason Kokrak took his third shot on 18 off a chalet when his second shot flew to the right of the green. Fans cleared a way and Kokrak chipped to about 18 feet and eventually bogeyed the hole.

▪  Canadian Graham DeLaet has pledged $500 to the Canadian Red Cross for every birdie he makes this week. At 2-under par for the tournament, he’s made eight birdies so far.

▪  Zac Blair was disqualified in a strange way. He was in danger of missing the cut when he reached the fifth hole. After missing a birdie putt, he slammed the putter against his head and then finished for par. On the next hole he showed the slightly bent putter to a rules official. Blair was disqualified because you can’t use an intentionally damaged club.

▪  Varner enjoyed a great career at East Carolina, and he donned a purple shirt Friday. There was plenty of Pirate pride following him around the course with several purple-clad fans in his gallery.

▪  Several names along with Simpson missed the cut, which was set at 1-over par. Former Charlotte 49ers standout Corey Nagy, Bill Haas, Jim Furyk, Davis Love III and Geoff Ogilvy are all going home.

They said it

“It’s a hard golf course, but there’s opportunities out there. I’m just trying to get as many under par as possible. Pars don’t do you much good out here.” – Castro, whose 6 under was the best of all players Friday.

“(The greens) are so fast that you have to play so much break and you have to kind of adjust a little bit. But she’s hot, so I’m just going to. ...I’m going to let her ride, you know?” – Hadley, who had only 25 putts Friday.

“Disappointing. I know this place so well and I’ve played here in the past. It just stinks.” – Simpson.

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